If you have a parent, or close blood
relative, who is a high ranking member of
your police department, or he or she
occupies an influential position in local
government, you will become a detective
if that's your desire. If you come from a
family which is politically well connected,
your chances of becoming a detective will
improve immensely. If you're female,
drop dead gorgeous -- or close to it --
with a flirtatious personally, and you
don't have too much similar competition,
you too can become a detective. As for
the rest of you, you're going to have to
work very hard to become a detective.
Now...while some police departments may
put detectives into higher pay grades
than police officers, most simply change
your title from police officer to detective
police officer or police detective. Any
monetary increase usually comes in the
form of a clothing allowance. Even if your
elevation to detective is not an actual
promotion in authority and pay grade,
your department may well have a formal
selection process in the form of a written
examination and oral interview. A formal
selection process has two advantages.
First, it makes everybody participating in
the process feel better about their
chances of becoming detectives.
Secondly, it gives the department cover
when it picks those already chosen. It's
not a complete waste of time though. If
you join a relatively large police
department, and you wow them on the
interview, you could slip through.
Okay...now that brutal honesty is out of
the way, you know that you'll have to
avoid cynicism as you work toward your
goal of becoming a detective. As for
your preparation to become a detective,
your patrol experience will be your best
single training ground for that
preparation. Patrol will give you the
opportunity to experience every facet of
police work. Far too many police officers
fail to appreciate or take advantage of
the patrol experience. Many will drift
toward areas of investigation and
enforcement which interest them while
neglecting others. While it's only human
to do things that you best like to do, or
in which you excel, it's extremely
important for you to gain the widest and
deepest knowledge and experience in
everything available to you.
In police work, there is nothing worse
than not knowing something you're
expected to know. While being a
detective is a prestigious assignment,
only those detectives who possess
knowledge and experience also enjoy
respect along with the prestige. If you
become a detective after the proper
preparation, you'll make few mistakes
initially, and any mistakes you do make
will be minor.
When you do become a detective, your
area(s) of investigation may not be your
choice or they may vary. In a small police
department, detectives will likely be
responsible for all types of
investigations. The larger your
department and instances of crime, it
becomes more likely that you'll specialize
in certain areas of investigation. If your
jurisdiction experiences a high rate of
homicides, your department will have
detectives solely committed to homicide
investigations. The same thing goes for
crimes like rape, robbery and burglary.
If your department has you investigating
all types of crimes, it's not a bad thing.
However, it's all about volume. When
incidents of particular crimes reach
certain numbers, specialization becomes
a matter of necessity rather than choice.
Never forget that the more prior
experience you have in investigating all
types of crimes, the easier it will be for
you to perform at a high level of
efficiency in any area of specialization.
Here's the most important thing for you
to remember. Don't be in a big hurry to
get out of patrol. You'll see some police
officers who obviously have the
connections to move all over the place
spending little time in any one place.
While such movement may be good for a
resume, it doesn't do much for their
depth of knowledge and experience. If
you really want to excel as a detective,
you must obtain as much knowledge and
experience as possible.
Above all...don't get discouraged when
you're denied assignments simply
because you haven't connected with the
right people. Look at me. For twenty
years as a police officer, I couldn't get
close to a detective unit. In the end, I
commanded three squads of detectives.
I always shudder and shake -- just a little
-- when I think back on how naive I was
when I began my police career. As you
contemplate a police career, you're
naturally going to take great interest in
the opportunities that will be available to
you. For many of you, the goal of
becoming a detective will be one of those
opportunities of most interest.
Perhaps it's the culture; wherein,
television and movies depict detectives as
the true cops with the guys and girls in
blue uniforms as background for the real
action. While becoming a detective is a
worthy goal for you, you should not be
disappointed when you find out that just
being a good police officer and
investigator is not enough for you to
capture that position. In fact, you'll see
excellent police officers and investigators
who never seem to make the grade.
If you think that if you enter your police
career already possessing education,
prior training or experience in criminal
investigation, you'll have an advantage in
becoming a detective, you'll be incorrect.
While education and background
experience certainly won't hurt you,
neither will it help you in getting a
detective's badge. A police department
isn't any different from any other
"If you're female, drop dead
gorgeous -- or close to it -- with a
flirtatious personally, and you don't
have too much similar competition,
you too can become a detective."
~ Barry M. Baker
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